MIAMI GARDENS — When she graduates in December, Gale Hyde will have her nine-year-old son to thank for her college degree.
When the then-four-year old youngster took to correcting his mother’s grammar, Hyde, 34, decided to apply to Florida Memorial University. Attending as a single parent is a challenge the elementary education major said will be easier when the school’s new resource center opens.
On Friday, Oct. 10, Denny’s Corp., and the historically black university, unveiled the Denny’s Single Parent Resource Center at a luncheon held at the school’s Miami Gardens campus.
Being able to take her son with her to school is a huge benefit to Hyde.
“Many times we can’t take the child to the library because they’re making noise, but you can take them to the resource center,” she said.
While her son is occupied in the resource playroom, Hyde is able to access computers.
Denny’s invested $70,000 in the center as part of its focus on diversity. The restaurant chain has partnered with the Tom Joyner Foundation to provide $1,500 scholarships to single parents attending historically black colleges and universities. The recipients are selected on a weekly basis.
Sybil Wilkes, the intellect among the Tom Joyner Morning Show cast, attended the center’s grand opening. Wilkes understands the demands of single parenthood, firsthand.
“I was raised by a single parent, and I understand how important that is. My mom always encouraged me to read and to excel academically,” she said.
Barbara Edwards, executive assistant to Florida Memorial University President Karl Wright, will serve as a liaison to the resource center.
“[Denny’s] asked if we would be interested, and we were thrilled to be … the first HBCU (which stands for historically black colleges and universities) selected. Through the center, [students] will have the opportunity to get additional supportive services, counseling, computer access, to get them what they need, to get them to persist,” Edwards said.
Echoing Edwards’ excitement was Louis Laguardia, Denny’s senior vice president of human resources and diversity. Laguardia said that working with institutions like FMU is an important part of the restaurant chain’s diversity mission.
“We live diversity in everything we do. It’s the only way we can do business,” he said, adding that FMU “welcomed us with open arms.”
Chad Graham, 27, a senior marketing major and father of two young sons, said the resource center helps him convey the importance of education to his boys.
“They’re on campus a lot,” said Graham, who graduates next spring and hopes to land a job in radio.
Willie Robinson, former president of FMU and the first African American to buy a Denny’s franchise in the state of Florida, said the collaboration is a “very fine example of what Denny’s is trying to do.”
Over the past several years, Denny’s has tried to improve its image, following settlement of a $54 million class-action lawsuit filed by thousands of black people alleging racial discrimination during visits to the chain’s restaurants.
Denny’s now includes more black celebrities in its commercials, donates money to programs like Joyner’s and to the United Negro College Fund, and has increased the number of its black franchisees from one in 1993, to the current 123 who collectively own more than 400 of Denny’s 1,546 restaurants.
The efforts of Denny’s, headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina, were recognized by Fortune Magazine in 2001, when a “Best Company for Minorities” designation was conferred upon the chain.